cooking class: evening in Tuscany


The day after I got back from the conference, we were scheduled to volunteer at Gretchen’s Cooking School. I was so exhausted I was afraid I wouldn’t make it through – fortunately, even though the class was by Peter Belknap, it wasn’t too much work to keep up with. He was doing Tuscany (each of his classes focuses on a different country), and the food was very straightforward and rustic. He didn’t dirty nearly as many dishes as he usually does! And I can absolutely guarantee that nobody left hungry.

tuna & beans

The first course was a salad of oil-packed tuna, cannellini beans and mixed vegetables, with a dressing of mustard, vinegar, mayonnaise and the oil from the tuna cans.

salad fixins Continue reading

holiday wines & appetizers


Our latest event down at Gretchen’s Cooking School was a wine tasting with wine rep Tom Saunderson. The theme was holiday wines, and the food (prepared by us and Susan, the class coordinator) was a selection of appetizers: mostly finger food, featuring plenty of cheese.


There were six wines: four whites and two reds, which made for a different assortment than the usual. A lot of people do forget about white wines in the winter, but this was a lovely assortment with a wide variety of flavors.

Malibran Prosecco: one of the nicest Proseccos I’ve ever had. Bright, fizzy, and fabulously drinkable. We bought some.

Ponzi Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley: we have a bottle of this at home from the last vintage. It’s incredibly tasty and clean, with a bright grapefruit aroma. Continue reading

cooking class: a dinner for fall

cooking class 10-14-08

We did our first volunteering of the season this week at Gretchen’s Cooking School. The chef was Don Shank of the Rhododendron Cafe, a nice place out on Chuckanut Drive in Bow. The Rhody has a gimmick, of sorts: each month they feature a different theme or ethnicity, so the menu is constantly changing. They also close every winter so the owners can travel and keep their sanity – the secret to the restaurant’s longevity. Not a bad idea, really.

cooking class 10-14-08

The focus of this class was seasonal food, especially local, so it featured cabbage, squash, apples and cheese. The weather’s gotten really chilly this week, so it was great to have all the warm, sweet flavors. Don brought lots of extra squash and some branches of Chinese lanterns for decor. Continue reading

cooking class: a random assortment of yummy things

cooking class 9-9-08

We helped out at what was probably our last cooking class for a little while – the chef for this class was Brent Pyeatt, formerly wine rep for Unique Wines, now grill cook at Nimbus. The dinner he put together was an unusual mix of ethnicities/flavor profiles, but it was all very tasty.

cooking class 9-9-08

First course was a Rick Bayless take on insalata Caprese, with beautiful fresh tomatoes, queso fresco, cilantro, and a balsamic-chipotle dressing. The chipotle didn’t come through as much as I would have liked, but I thought the flavors were good – a nice change from the usual mozzarella-basil version. We can get good Mexican cheese around here, so I might try some version of this at home sometime.

cooking class 9-9-08

Next up was a batch of siu mai, what my dim sum cookbook calls “cook and sell dumplings”. These were stuffed with pork and cabbage, steamed and served with a little dipping sauce with hoisin and scallions. Just a bite for each person, but really good. I love dumplings.

Continue reading

Peter's squid salad

squid salad

We had a class at Gretchens with chef Peter Belknap the other night, the theme of the evening being “French Riviera.” Of course, there was cream sauce involved, and plenty of cheese and breadcrumbs as well. But one dish that I thought was particularly fun was a salad of white beans, pasta and squid with a mustardy dressing. I love squid, but I never cook it at home (my few attempts, many years ago, were rather rubbery). This was a nice presentation, and the flavors and textures worked well together. I may have to give cooking squid another try.


I got to prep the squid – apparently having small fingers is an asset in this business. This was frozen, cleaned squid without the tentacles, very easy to work with.

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cooking class: an evening in Paris

galettes and gougeres

The summer season has begun at Gretchen’s Cooking School, so we’re back in the kitchen doing our usual chopping, serving and washing. In honor of Bastille Day, our friend Peter Belknap put together a menu of Parisian delights.


The first course was a composed salad of lettuce, endive, julienned vegetables, sweetened walnuts, apples and marinated sausage, topped with fresh gougères. It made the customers swoon, which isn’t bad for a salad. Someone even said it was the best salad she’d ever had! Continue reading

cooking class: cream sauce, anyone?


A lovely, but very rich, set of recipes from Normandy, presented by chef Peter Belknap. For some reason we didn’t need to wash nearly as many dishes as usual – very relaxing!

chevre toasts
chevre toasts

The kickoff was a very tasty salad of mixed greens topped with sweet spiced walnuts, apple and pear slices, a garlicky/mustardy vinaigrette, and a slice of baguette that had been spread with goat cheese and broiled. I could eat this sort of thing every day. A viognier was poured to go with this, which was a nice match. Continue reading

cooking class: spring food & wine pairing

calendula, chive and fennel

It’s a great thing to find a chef (or a wine seller) whose taste so perfectly matches your own that you know you’re going to like anything they give you. Classes with Casey Schanen of Nell Thorn restaurant and Tom Saunderson of Young’s Columbia are like that: Casey is a wonderful, very grounded cook and I tend to adore everything he makes, and Tom’s wine selections are always both tasty and interesting, and the pairings are consistently excellent (right, Tom?)


Last week the theme, insofar as there was one, was food for spring and summer, featuring freshly made pastas. As usual, Casey brought some starting nibbles with him: fresh crusty bread and arbequina olives that were marinated with herbs and oranges. Continue reading

cooking class: taste of Andalusia

This is proving to be a mighty busy week. We kicked it off (after a full Monday back at work) with a cooking class featuring dishes from the Andalusia region of Spain. Brian Tolbert of the Dulce Plate did the cooking, we did lots of chopping and running around with plates.


To keep the guests from expiring from hunger right off the bat, Brian started with some fairly simple mussels cooked in a vegetable and wine broth. They were good, of course (fresh mussels, duh), but I would have liked a slightly heavier broth and a lot of bread to sop it up. Fortunately, there was more food coming…

piquillo peppers

The second course was quite solid: piquillo peppers stuffed with a mixture of yellowfin tuna and bechamel sauce, then dredged in egg and seasoned flour and fried in olive oil. Wowzers, these were good. I could eat a couple of these for a meal.

chorizo Continue reading